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CraveFX designers churn beguiling videos

Local firm proves that art sells, with consistently healthy earnings year-on-year.
Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 05:50
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Founders of CraveFX (standing, left to right) creative directors Mr Joshua Tan and Mr Yoon, business development director Mr Lee, and (seated) finance and strategy director Mr Isaac Tan.

YOU'RE likely to have seen one of their creations before. Whether it's the digital video animations for this year's National Day Parade, or the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres) video on shark fin soup that went viral some years ago - these were among the many designs produced by local video production company CraveFX Pte Ltd.

Incorporated in February 2013 by finance and strategy director Isaac Tan, business development director Willie Lee, and creative directors Davier Yoon and Joshua Tan, CraveFX rode the waves of social media's ascent and duly profited from the resulting upshoot in demand for web videos.

While CraveFX was officially incorporated in 2013, the two creative directors had previously created other videos under a different name: Coalition Pte Ltd.

Mr Joshua Tan said: "We started CraveFX with just S$8,000 in the bank, two computers, and a few pieces of software which we purchased with our own savings in February 2013. In May, we hired our first employee - a polytechnic graduate."

Today, the company has come a long way, with a staff strength of 18 and having created over 300 videos. They have even managed to expand their reach into overseas markets, doing video and animation works for clients in Australia, India and China.

CraveFX is a digital video-making company, specialising in three areas of video design - animation, motion graphics, and visual effects.

While these categories might seem highly similar, Mr Joshua Tan said that the creative work that goes on for these categories of videos is highly distinct.

"The type of artistic skill and creative logic that is needed for each type of work is different. For animations, you would need someone with writing skill to develop a narrative, while motion graphics is a lot like graphic design, which is more focused on the visual aesthetic elements.

"Visual effects involves superimposing computerised graphics onto raw camera footage, which is a different ball game altogether. But sometimes we do find that the lines between the different categories have been blurred due to the dynamic nature of our creative work."

CraveFX creates a wide variety of videos, from animated infographics and explainers for broadcast media, to 2D to 3D animation videos for other creative industries, to visual effects used in advertising or marketing projects.

Of their achievements, the "Tools of Destruction" video that they created for Acres on the costs of fishing for shark fin was their earliest success, winning the Spikes Asia gold award (an award open to the creative communications industries), garnering thousands of likes, and shared over 17,000 times on Facebook. While the animation work was done by artists in CraveFX, the script and concept was done up by advertising company Ogilvy & Mather Singapore, said Mr Yoon.

Mr Lee said: "At one stage, Acres wanted to arrange for artists to hand paint thousands of porcelain spoons to do a stop-motion video. But we came in and told them we could achieve the same effect with much less physical effort."

Mr Isaac Tan added: "I think it worked out really well: one thing I especially liked was the fact that some of our viewers couldn't tell that it was animated digitally. It signals to me that we really did our job well."

In January this year, they participated in an annual creative festival in Melbourne organised by video hosting site Vimeo, called Pause Fest. They were selected as one of the top 10 companies in the world to have their work featured during the event.

In June, CraveFX also completed a series of 10 videos for the opening of the VR Bengaluru mall in Bangalore, India, demonstrating that their reach goes far beyond the borders of Singapore.

Their most recent project was for this year's National Day Parade (NDP) as one of the principle partners involved in the making of the show. The company primarily worked on the stage graphics - the digital "screens" put up around the base of the stage - as well as the 3D-projected images on the walls of the floating city props.

Mr Joshua Tan said: "Projecting the images onto the six-storey structures was no easy feat. There were a lot of technical challenges behind screening the digital image onto all sides of the 3D object. We were extremely proud when we saw our several hundred of man-hours of work coming to fruition during the NDP itself."

Apart from the stage displays, Mr Isaac Tan said CraveFX also created some of the on-screen videos which were screened during the show.

Their extensive client list features the likes of government agencies and ministries such as Mindef (Ministry of Defence), the Singapore Police Force, the Central Provident Fund Board, and the Health Promotion Board, as well as large companies such as Singapore Airlines, SGX (Singapore Exchange), Singtel, Visa, the Singapore Press Holdings, and Mediacorp, said Mr Isaac Tan.

The company has a unique working style because of the environment in their Toa Payoh office. CraveFX is situated in a common space together with other content-creating companies such as Massive Infinity, SethLui.com, The Hidden Good, Big 3 Media, and Tree Potatoes.

They are collectively known as the Corridor group, said Mr Isaac Tan, who also clarified that the group is not a business entity but only refers to the geographical collective of firms who work in proximity to each other within a shared interior.

He said: "The only commonality between all the firms in the group, in a technical sense, is that Big 3 Media has a small stake in all the companies. But this is only so that the administrative functions - such as in accounting and finance - can be centralised.

"This is also how the work is split between the four of us heading CraveFX. While Joshua and Davier handle the technical and artistic side of it, Willie and I, who are also technically a part of Big 3 Media, handle the business-oriented side of the company."

He cited augmented reality apps developed jointly by app development company Massive Infinity and CraveFX, as an example of the benefits of physical proximity. "These apps would not have been possible if we did not have a shared workspace. The kind of speed and reaction that was needed would be impossible if we had operated in a more conventional manner."

One of these apps - called MeijiSG - was a marketing tool developed in 2014, and featured an augmented reality Hello Panda bear appearing on the screen of the phone if the user pointed the phone's camera at any Hello Panda logo, as found on its food packaging. CraveFX was the company responsible for the artistic design of the bear in the app.

Looking into the finances, Mr Isaac Tan said CraveFX aims to double their revenue growth, net assets, and staff strength year-on-year. While he said the company is just shy of hitting their targets, he reported consistently strong bottom lines.

CraveFX reported an Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of S$136,220 in FY 2015 ended Dec 31, with a projected 76 per cent increase to S$240,000 in FY 2016. The company also reports a Ebitda margin of 20 per cent for FY 2015, up from a 13 per cent margin in FY 2014. It projects this margin to remain at 20 per cent for this financial year.

CraveFX also said it had increased its revenue by 90 per cent to S$673,520 in FY 2015 compared to the corresponding period last year. This follows a 99 per cent rise from S$177,310 in FY 2013, to S$354,180 in FY 2014. For FY 2016, it projects a 78 per cent increase in revenue compared to the year-before period, arriving at a figure of S$1.2 million.

In the future, CraveFX hopes to further its international reach, as well as delve into intellectual property development.